By: Jim Steele
Last July, former McKenzie football product Daniel Duncan was ridiing a mower across the game field at Paul Ward Stadium when he was told he had a phone call.
It was Scotts Hill High School, seeking his services. He spent five years at Huntingdon High School and decided to make the move. Ten months later, Duncan was named as the Lions head coach. Michael Stroup had served as the Lions' head coach since 2013 and recently accepted the University School of Jackson job.
Duncan said he is savoring the opportunity to be the Lions' coach.
"This is a huge opportunity and a huge blessing to build on the foundation Stroup has set. We have quite a few returning defensive starters. We'll continue to battle and be aggressive," Duncan said. "Defensively we might change. We have a new assistant coach named Jeff Robertson, a thirty-year veteran and we'll be posting the opening for an offensive coordinator."
Former McNairy Central coach Tommy Browder, who served as offensive coordinator, will join Stroup at USJ .
"Offensively, losing Browder is huge, but I think these kids are in the right offense," Duncan said. "I don't plan on changing that too much and I think our personnel will match our offense. "
Stroup led the the Lions to a 9-4 mark and the state quarterfinals last season. When Stroup called Duncan, he balked a bit at the offer.
"I wasn't too interested in the job at first, but he told me to talk to him and let's just go from there," Duncan said. "We didn't even have the home side of the bleachers yet, but he made it sound really good and to be a part of a program that made history in my first year was absolutely amazing. I learned a lot from Huntingdon and it was difficult leaving that staff."
Duncan's father, David Duncan, was head coach at Bolivar and Jackson Central-Merry and defensive coordinator at McKenzie. He said he's fielded many questions about whether his dad would be offering help.
"I would absolutely love for my dad to come and assist and share his knowledge of the game," said the younger Duncan. "But he's a superintendent (at Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central) and I will probably have to wait until he retires."
Duncan and Tyler Reeder are two former McKenzie players, both of whom played for Wade Comer, who are current West Tennessee high school football coaches. Reeder was named interim head coach at Jackson-South Side and will continue in that roll next season. Duncan said he hasn't spoken to his former teammate yet.
"I haven't talked to him yet, but we're supposed to scrimmage them, so I'm sure I'll be talking to him a bit over the summer." he said.
In the meantime, Duncan is pleased with his serendipitous fortune.
"I feel like it's a blessing. It's amazing and I am not going to let them down."